Premier League managers criticise Fifa ruling that could see players banned

Premier League bosses have criticised a Fifa ruling that could see their Brazilian players banned this weekend over Covid-19 protocols.

Under Fifa rules, players not released for the recent South American World Cup qualifiers can be banned for five days.

The Premier League, the relevant national associations and Fifa are continuing to try to resolve the issue.

However, BBC Sport has been told clubs are seriously considering ignoring Fifa and fielding the players in question.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has said he is unsure if Alisson and Fabinho are available, while Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is hopeful Ederson and Gabriel Jesus will play.

But Newcastle’s Paraguay midfielder Miguel Almiron and Wolves’ Mexico striker Raul Jimenez can play.

Bruce did not reveal the details as to why Almiron is available, but said: “common sense prevailed”. Paraguay had made a complaint to Fifa after the midfielder did not report for international duty.

“It’s gone on behind the scenes constantly, but what I can say is that he is available, but there is still live debates as we speak,” Bruce said.

Mexico have withdrawn their complaint, so Jimenez is available to face Watford on Saturday.

In total, 11 Premier League players – from four countries, across eight clubs – were the subject of complaints to Fifa after not reporting for the latest round of South American World Cup qualifiers, played between 2 and 9 September:

  • Alisson, Fabinho, Roberto Firmino (Liverpool and Brazil)
  • Ederson and Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City and Brazil)
  • Thiago Silva (Chelsea and Brazil)
  • Raphinha (Leeds and Brazil)
  • Fred (Manchester United and Brazil)
  • Miguel Almiron (Newcastle and Paraguay)
  • Raul Jimenez (Wolves and Mexico)
  • Francisco Sierralta (Watford and Chile)
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In addition, Everton forward Richarlison did not report for Brazil’s World Cup qualifiers. But it is understood that Brazil have not asked for him to be prevented from featuring for Everton against Burnley in the Premier League on Monday because the club allowed him to play at the recent Olympic Games in Tokyo.

While Almiron is now clear to play for Newcastle, and Jimenez for Wolves, Liverpool’s Firmino would have been absent this Sunday anyway because of an injury sustained before the international break.

All of the South American qualifiers took place in countries on the government’s red travel list. Anyone entering – or returning – to the UK from those countries has to quarantine for 10 days.

As a result, several players did not report for international duty, resulting in the affected South American national associations asking Fifa to implement bans.

Premier League officials have been talking to clubs in an attempt to resolve the issue.

However, a short meeting with the clubs involved on Thursday only confirmed a solution was yet to be found.

Asked about the availability of Fabinho and Alisson, Klopp said: “I can say what I know: I don’t know in the moment. We will see, there are meetings going on.”

Manchester City face being without first-choice goalkeeper Ederson for Saturday’s Premier League match at Leicester. That could mean a rare appearance for 36-year-old Scott Carson, as second-choice keeper Zack Steffen is unavailable because of a positive coronavirus test.

“We are going to wait until tomorrow – right now I’m thinking they’ll play,” said Guardiola.

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“Hopefully they can play. We wait to see tomorrow if there is some good news.”

The ruling could also affect Premier League clubs beyond the weekend, with Chelsea defender Thiago Silva and Manchester United midfielder Fred set to be prevented from playing in the Champions League next Tuesday. Chelsea host Zenit St Petersburg; Manchester United travel to Swiss club Young Boys.

‘Nobody cares’

Klopp suggested clubs were being punished over a reorganisation of the international calendar that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic.

South America’s teams each played three qualifiers during the September international break, instead of the usual two, and the same will apply during the next break in October.

The Liverpool boss believes the qualifiers should have been spread out over the summer as well – which was instead taken up by the rearranged Copa America, postponed from 2020 because of the pandemic.

“People decide without us these kinds of things,” he continued.

“OK, nobody cares, that’s how it is. They play a Copa America, then they still have more games to play.

“Then a week or 10 days before the international break, we get, ‘OK, we play now three games and the last game is on Thursday night.’

“We have nothing to do with that. We cannot decide anything about it, we just read these things.”

Klopp added “it’s not our decision” to make players quarantine for 10 days on returning to the UK, saying they would “lose everything” isolating in a hotel room for that long.

“Then the decision was made, not by us: if that’s like this then the players cannot go,” he said.

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“And now, the next thing, we have a football game to play again and they tell us we cannot play our Brazilian players.

“It’s like, ‘Huh?’ So, we did nothing. We didn’t organise the Copa America, we are not responsible for the games they couldn’t have played.

“We didn’t invite players, we didn’t say when they come back there’s no exemption. We all didn’t do that.

“But in the end the only [people] who get punished are the players and the clubs – and we have nothing to do with the whole organisation around.”

‘A no-win situation’ – Villa boss Smith

Emiliano Buendia
Aston Villa’s Emiliano Buendia is quarantining in Croatia after travelling to Argentina

The players who did report for international duty in South America are also out of this weekend’s Premier League matches as they quarantine.

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith is is without Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia after they travelled to be part of the Argentina squad.

Goalkeeper Martinez played in a World Cup qualifier against Brazil that was abandoned because Brazilian health officials said four England-based Argentina players had broken quarantine rules.

The pair are quarantining in Croatia.

Smith described it as a “no-win situation”, adding: “Legally I don’t think we had any right to ban our players. Obviously, I didn’t want them to travel as I didn’t want them to miss Aston Villa games.”

Source: BBC